Derry based Hawthorn Heights develops play parks, tennis courts and sports pitches, including for local authorities in the island of Ireland and in Scotland. The business, which was set up in 1999, employs ten people and has worked with InterTradeIreland and Co-Innovate to grow its cross-border sales. The biggest issue it has faced this year has been how much harder it is to bring goods in through the UK. "The amount of declarations just makes it a task," Ciaran Farren, its design manager, says.
Hawthorn Heights sources materials from the UK and Germany. To avoid British paperwork, its European suppliers are bypassing the UK land bridge and shipping direct from France to Ireland instead, which has resulted in higher logistics costs for the company. A combination of Covid, shipping container shortages and Brexit paperwork have all increased costs for the firm. Not the only do public tenders require competitive pricing, but there is typically a lag between when a tender is won and when the work is executed, during which time margins are being eroded.
Working with the Co-Innovate programme, which helps small businesses in border areas to develop creative systems, including new product development, has helped. "If we hadn't done it, we wouldn't be so well able to adapt to the changes in the external marketplace we're seeing now," Farren says.